Color cartoon illustration

I just finished up a cartoon for a new client today. They found me on the web and made this inquiry -

We need a cartoon caricature of our 2 small shop dogs. I'd like them to be playing tug of war with a small car (mini cooper, vw, ? Its for our blog and enews letter header. Interested? Price, time frame please?

I responded that I was interested. I gave a price for black and white, which is what I usually do, and this client explained exactly what they needed, and also that the cartoon should be in color. Here is the rough sketch
This is how I do it. I give an exact price and request 50% deposit. Upon receipt of the deposit, I submit the rough sketch. If you hire an illustrator, this is what they should do. This allows the client to make revisions before the final artwork is done. I pride myself on getting it right the first time, and following the request of the client carefully, and this client was very clear on what they wanted, right down to the exact size and file type (.psd) to be submitted. By the way, .psd means a Photoshop file, but not a jpeg. It's the original file, which has the layers, and can be easily edited. So, if they want to change the color of the Mini from yellow to green, it's a simple process, unlike how it would be with a jpeg.

My post on how to color a cartoon in Photoshop is here

The second step happens when the client pays the remainder and I send the final artwork -
In the world of the internet, you can get exactly what you want. It is much easier and a whole lot cheaper than it used to be. It's all handled with email and Paypal.

Turning off content to learn composition

If you can draw individual things, and would like to combine them together, you are interested in composition. Visual composition is the arrangement of various elements. Like great acting, people can recognize great composition, but also like great acting, not everyone can do it.
The first step to learn composition is to mentally "turn off" the content. Look at the image above. The dog, the plants, the rocks, the wall, etc. are the content. Someone who can create good composition learns to see them only as shapes and colors. If you can't do that, don't be discouraged, most people can't. And it takes a lot of practice. Try this - squint your eyes until you really can't make out anything but the shapes and the light and dark areas. You should see the composition split in the middle, dark on the right, light on the left. This is the beginning, what I describe as "turning off content".

When you are really not thinking about a dog, or a palm tree, or a rock, you can begin to see the composition. Look at the shadows cast by the palm tree fronds on the rock. In fact, look at the shadows. In this composition, darks and lights are the major elements. Good composition is everywhere. Every frame of a movie is a composition done by the director. Great composition can make the ordinary extraordinary.

If you would like to get personal on-site software training in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Dreamweaver in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, please contact me.  Yes, I will also do a training session on setting up your blog on Google Blogger! Paypal accepted, morning appointments only.

How to learn how to draw caricatures

A caricature is a humorous drawing of someone's face. Although it's not a portrait, it should look like the person. Drawing an insulting or degrading caricature of a person is easy, drawing a flattering caricature is more difficult, but it can be done.

When I was a kid, I studied the great masters of caricature art, Mort Drucker, Angelo Torres and Al Hirschfeld. You can Google these artists or find some of your own. All artists start by imitating their masters, then they find their own style. Carry your sketchbook around (if you aren't already), and draw your friends. By the way, if they want to take the drawing, give it to them, that is a good sign. If you offer it, and they say, "uh... no, I'm already carrying too much", don't be discouraged, that just means that you need to practice more, in private.

To capture a likeness, you will have to observe and be aware of major shapes. Faces aren't only about eyes and noses and ears. In fact, most caricature artists have just a few eyes, ears and nose shapes that they draw. The key to capturing a likeness is to get the shape of the face, and the proportions, correct. If you have only drawn by looking at a photo, doing a drawing from life will be a challenge. Yes, I know it sounds corny, but begin with drawing a still life, that is, the old "bowl of fruit" or the objects on your desk. This will actually be the most difficult part of the entire process, and it's also why most artists resist it. It is very different drawing from real life than from a photograph. When you draw from a photograph, it's already visually flattened for you, the shadows never move, the subject holds still. Drawing from life means that you have to see it all in your "mind's eye". If you are self-conscious about asking people to sit for you, draw your dog, or go to the zoo.

A teacher of mine once told me to "spend more time seeing than drawing". If it's not convenient to have your sketchbook in front of you, for instance while driving, you can still be seeing like an artist. The drawing is done in your mind, putting it down on paper is just the last step.

Drawing cartoons

Drawing cartoons is a lot of fun. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, or a crayon, and have always found it to be a pure joy. My dad used to bring home reams of computer paper from work for me to draw on when I was a kid. Yes, I drew on both sides, my mom insisted on it! In school I drew cartoons of all of the adventures of my friends. I was a very shy kid, and drawing cartoons helped me to make friends.

If you would like to make money drawing cartoons, I would say the most important thing to focus on is to follow directions. That is, the specifics about what your client wants. It's all well and good to be fabulously talented, but that doesn't mean anything to a client who wants a cartoon of penguins and you give them bunnies!

Seriously, listen to your client. Nowadays most of my clients write emails to me with what they want, and I print the emails out and put them in front of me while I am drawing. This, of course, doesn't mean that what they are asking for is ALL that you give them. You are supposed to be creative here. If your client is a self-storage place, then maybe they will suggest a couple of business people surrounded by files, boxes of stuff, maybe a basketball. Be sure to include all of those things! That is the first thing that your client will look for. If you disagree with whether businesspeople would store a basketball, that's a completely different issue.

I recommend giving your client what they are asking for. If you are an artist, draw. If you want to argue, become a lawyer or something. Double-check your sketch against the request your client made. If you forgot something, go put it in before you show it. If your client asks for something else after they see the sketch, draw it. That's what the sketch is for.  When you are paid, and submit the final artwork, the transaction is complete, and everyone is happy.

I do cartoon illustrations in black and white and in color for books, T-shirts, magazines, textbooks, children's books, blogs and all types of publications. To order a cartoon, contact me, tell me exactly what you want, and I will give you a quote. You will see a pencil sketch to approve before the final art. Your illustration will be supplied to you as a jpeg. Prices start as low as $75 USD, depending on complexity. The sample on this post is very complex, so it would be more. Paypal is accepted from anywhere in the world.

The difference between a commerical artist and a fine artist

I've always loved to draw, and I consider myself an artist above any other description of myself. When I graduated from high school, I decided that I would earn my living doing art. What that was, I had no idea. I just knew that I wanted to turn my love for art into a career. I became a commercial artist.

To me, there is no difference between commercial artists and fine artists in terms of talent. To be successful, you have to have talent. And you can make money being a commercial artist or a fine artist. The only way that you can't make money is as a "starving artist", which is what I wanted to avoid.

When I started my career in the 80s, the term "graphic designer" was not common. Before that, people who did graphic design were just called "commercial artists". The degree that I got at ASU was in Graphic Design, under the Fine Arts College.

I define a commercial artist as someone who works on assignment. If you have a client, for example the Pope, and you are asked to decorate the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, you are a commercial artist. If  you just take your sketch pad out somewhere and make drawings of whatever you like, even if you sell them later, in my opinion, you are a fine artist. In fact, even if you don't sell them later, you are a fine artist.

If you want to be a commercial artist, as all Graphic Designers are, you have to learn to work on assignment. You have to know how to deal either with a client or an art director, who will tell you what the client wants. If Michelangelo had painted a bunch of bunnies on the ceiling of the Sistine, he would have lost the commission. But he took a bland assignment and made a masterpiece of it. Being a commercial artist can be cool.

If you would like to get personal on-site software training in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Dreamweaver in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, please contact me.

How to draw cartoons

A cartoon, is, by definition, a simplified drawing. And doing a simplified drawing can be more difficult than doing a complex drawing. It requires excellent focus and composition. It's not about massive detail and a lot of lines and shades, it's about expressing an image in it's purest form. It's not easy to do, but you can do it.

If you love to draw, like I do, chances are you started out by copying your favorite comic-book artists, which is great. But you are going to have to move beyond studying just the lines, you are going to have to learn how to compose and simplify.

A good cartoonist has a strong foundation in drawing. And that foundation hasn't changed since the Renaissance. I know it sounds funny, or rather not, to begin with formal drawing, but that's the way to go. Sign up for drawing classes at your local community college. Be prepared to draw naked people, because life drawing is a basic foundation. And especially learn about something called "gesture drawing". That teaches your eye to see form and movement. It will mean taking your sketchbook out somewhere and drawing the people who are walking by. Sound tough? It is! That's why a lot of people never get very good at this. I've been doing it all my life and I am just starting to get it.

If you would like to get personal on-site software training in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Dreamweaver in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, please contact me.

How to turn your talent at drawing into money

If you like to draw, chances are you have a talent for it. If you are wondering if you can turn that talent into money, the answer is yes. I have loved to draw since I was a little kid, and eventually turned my talents into a career.

This is how you get started:

• Make sure that you have a talent. This is brutal for some people, but it has to be faced. If the only people who think that you have a talent are your friends and family, it's time to put it to the test. Volunteer your artwork for your school or your church. If you are any good, people will accept your artwork. If you are not, they will not.

• Start getting paid in small ways. If you want to make a living with your talent, start right now getting paid. Even if it's just an exchange for a favor, or Kit-Kat bar, get something. If you can't get a ride to the mall from a friend in exchange for a drawing, maybe you're not so good as you think you are.

• Start learning about creative career paths. There are many things that people who can draw can do for a living. Consider that drawing is the basis for such careers as architecture, interior design, fashion design and graphic design, to name just a few. The best place to find out about these career choices is to take a class at your local community college. If you don't like it, that's OK, take a different class.

• Believe in yourself. Most people hate their jobs, and will never have a chance in a creative career. They will discourage you. Even if you have to take a crappy job to pay the bills, keep looking, keep learning, and mostly, keep believing!

If you would like to learn Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or Dreamweaver, please contact me. I do personal on-site training sessions in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area.

Cartoon Illustration

I have been doing more cartoon illustrations lately. This is how it works - I start by submitting a rough sketch for the client based on what they need.

This client, Rambling Russ, wrote " jumping off the picnic table, head down, feet flailing in air, great big grin on my face, and in the foreground maybe 3 or 4 seated including the cute little red head I was trying to impress.  Although I was much younger, we can keep any illustrations of me in my present bald headed form, mustache, but no glasses.  A close resemblance to me is not important to the illustration."

I submitted the rough sketch in pencil, which gives the client an idea of what the drawing will look like and allows them to make corrections if necessary, and then the I do the final art in ink and submit it as a jpeg.

It's all handled through email and Paypal.

Contact Brad directly

Draw what you see, not what you know

I was fortunate to have a high school art teacher, Mr. Shauer, who told me to draw what I saw, not what I knew. Because I didn't know much - and I still don't. He told me to spend more time looking than drawing. If you draw what you know, you will be severely limited. If you draw what you see, you can draw anything.

There is no better example of this limitation than when an artist goes to draw a face of a type he or she is not familiar with. Yes, I am talking about someone who is a different "race" than you. Unless you grew up in a very diverse environment, most of the people around you looked like you, and were the same race as you. And it would be reasonable to say that is what you know.

If you've ever felt this limitation, I say, forget what you know. Look. Find faces to look at - most people have one, and they are everywhere. Find reference images on the internet.

Let what you see guide you.

"Two-Legged Thinking" copyright Joel Weldon and Associates.

Coloring a cartoon in Photoshop

Photoshop gives a wonderful, soft color to cartoons. Here is how I do it.

First, I sketch out the drawing normally with a Sharpie pen and scan it in. Use Photoshop tools to keep the contrast very sharp and to eliminate any smudges, scan edges, etc.

Create a new layer. I created new layers for each new color, which is what I recommend, but you don't absolutely have to do that. The most important thing is to choose "Multiply" in the Layers panel. This allows the black lines of the layer below to show through, that is, the color doesn't completely cover it up. Select a brush that is comfortable and start coloring. You can change the size of the brush to fit into small areas, but in a cartoon you want it to be kind of loose or it will look stuffy. Use the eraser tool if you make a mistake or just to clean up a bit if you go over the lines.

If you use separate layers for each color, which I did, you can go back and refine more easily. In fact, it's tempting to go on refining and refining until you have ruined it. I once had a painting teaching who recommended that you know when to stop. If you are trying to finish your painting, he said, you might "finish it" - kill it.

Save it as psd file so you can go back and make changes if you need to and save for web as a jpeg to optimize for the web.

Caricatures for a wedding reception at The Stone House, Phoenix

Last night I drew caricatures for a wedding reception at The Stone House in Phoenix, Arizona. What a great venue! It is owned by Tony and Pamela (pictured). It doesn't look like much from the outside - on Deer Valley Road and 27th Avenue, but inside, wow! What an enchanting place. Hopefully I'll be able to get a few photos that were taken and I will post them here.

Caricatures for a wedding reception

I will be doing a caricature gig tomorrow at a wedding reception and I am really looking forward to it. My client has requested a particular size paper so I went to Arizona Art Supply and got several pads of premium 100 lb vellum. I am cutting the pads down to size today and that is all that I really need to prepare.  When I arrive at an event, all I need is some chairs and a small table. I don't use an easel or anything complicated like that. I draw in black-and-white with a fine point Sharpie permanent marker.

So, all I need to carry is the pads and the pens. I usually bring way more paper than I will need and lots of extra pens. This not only is the most professional way to go, but it a preparation technique that I learned years ago for teaching. It's normal to be a little nervous before a performance (and that's what I am doing, a performance that is supposed to be interesting and fun) but if you are well-prepared that makes everything better.

Once I start drawing, it will be fun. It always is!

Caricatures for special events

I really enjoy drawing caricatures at events and parties! My caricatures are always flattering - men are always handsome and women are always beautiful! Here is a time-lapse of me drawing caricatures at a 50th Anniversary party.

My first "real gig" drawing caricatures was back in 1989 at Magic Mountain, in California. When I was a kid in school I studied the "great masters" of Mad Magazine, such as Mort Drucker, Jack Davis and Angelo Torres. I do have a Fine Arts Degree, but I try not to let it get in the way of having fun.

Drawing explained

Drawing is all about seeing. I started drawing as a kid and I believe that it was a way to try to make sense out of the world for me. I still love to see and I don't draw as much as I used to. If you are interested in drawing, I would like to give some encouragement.

Don't be afraid to copy. I don't care what anyone around you says. It's how all artists start out. Find an artist you admire and copy their style. When I was a kid, I admired and copied Jack Kirby, Mort Drucker and Andrew Wyeth to name a few. Drawing is a visual language and you don't learn it by reading about it or talking about it. You learn it by looking at it.

The next step is to break out of formulas. A formula is a kind of "short-hand" for drawing. You know, think of the guy that always draws the same picture of a dog. That's fine to start but you will need to break away. To do this, find something common, as common-place as your room and draw it. But don't draw what's in your mind, draw what you see. Let your eyes guide your hand. The drawing above is of my first apartment in Phoenix when I was 20 years old.

Drawing caricatures

I had a drawing teacher who once said, "spend more time looking than drawing". So when you sit down in front of me to have your caricature drawn, I look. I want to see your face in motion and I want to be able to picture the structure of your face in my mind. Most of my "drawing" happens before I put pen to paper. So, please talk to me, and smile!

Many people are afraid of having their caricature drawn, and for good reason. Some caricature artists use insulting and exaggerating effects in place of any true drawing skill. I'd like to believe that I have true drawing skill and that is why I am able to do flattering caricatures. That is, getting a likeness without doing a degrading image. Like a good photo, I am trying to bring out the best in everyone.

A flattering caricature captures a likeness. When you smile at it, it should be the feeling you get when you recognize a friend.

Here is a video looking over my shoulder drawing a caricature on my web page.

Art explained

I once had a painting teacher who said that if you could say it with words, you wouldn't have to paint it. But there's something irresistible in trying to describe artwork with words, and as a teacher, I try.

Developing an eye for art, whether it be painting, graphic design, fashion or anything, takes time. If you're interested in learning about it, then reading about it or listening to someone talk about it won't do it. You have to experience it.

If you're interested in, say, painting, try this. Go to an art museum. Look at the paintings. No, don't read about them, don't talk to people about them, don't try to memorize the names of the artists and the year they were born. Just look.

Graphic design - go to a mall, or any store. My personal favorite display of current graphic design is CD covers.

Fashion - look at what people are wearing. You may want to start at Walmart.

It's another language and it really can't be translated into words. That's all I have to say.

Color explained

I've always been fascinated with color. If you've ever looked at a display of lipstick, or read that your computer screen displays millions of colors, you may think it's pretty complicated. Really it's not.

There are only three primary colors - blue, red and yellow. If someone is colorblind, they can't see these colors and no one could explain it to them. Go ahead, try to explain "blue", I'm waiting!

Every color you see is a combination of blue, red and yellow. Yes, even black and white. This is in "the real world" - not as we use technology to portray it on computers or in printing. Look around you, all of the colors you see are a mixture of those three primary colors. If you're lucky enough to see colors pass through a prism of a rainbow, you will see them separated out and mixed slightly between each other.

People who are colorblind can see things that we commonly think of as "color" - value. Go back and look at the display of lipstick "colors". Most of them are essentially the same color (hue) but different values, that is, shades of lightness and darkness. Adding and subtracting value from a color does not change it's color.

When you subtract color (hue) from an image you are left with value (grayscale). And you don't need color vision to watch and old black-and-white TV show, do you?

Color vision makes the world more visually delicious. And I'm glad I have it.